Monday, January 25, 2016

Flint water reflects Illinois woes





     In enormous disasters, there is often one small detail — I almost called it a "grace note" — that clicks a huge, blurred tragedy into focus. That drives the horror home.
     The atomic bombing of Hiroshima, for instance. It's difficult, maybe impossible, to conceive of a nuclear firestorm that kills 100,000 people at a stroke.
     But the shadows of victims vaporized in the blast, ghostly outlines left on sidewalks and against walls. Those you can see. The faint shadows somehow they symbolize the entire unfathomable, humanity-annihilating power of the explosion.
     Perhaps you're not paying attention to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. And I can't really blame you; Chicago is a city where children are gunned down in the street while they play, so it's hard to get too worked up over some folks in Michigan failing a blood test. Besides, we have all the good clean fresh Lake Michigan water we need.
     But there are aspects of the crisis that directly apply here. So a quick refresher.


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18 comments:

  1. It's actually worse than you described. The water was corroding the machinery at the GM plants and in the Flint water pipes because the Flint River water was NOT being treated adequately. And you failed to mention that the local officials had no voice because the Governor had appointed a series of "Emergency Managers" to run the City of Flint, who were not accountable to the people of the city but only to the Governor. Pennywise pound foolish to be sure, but the responsibility for that lies with Governor Snyder. The large parallel with Illinois is that Republicans have little interest in governing.

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  2. I think a larger lesson and one very difficult to learn is that if we really want good government, we voters are going to have to pay for it, one way or another.

    john

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  3. The Flint saga is a case of unaccountable bureaucrats run amuck. For decades Flint and its neighboring municipalities have purchased properly treated water from Detroit. Detroit typically sells its water marked up 100% or more above cost, most normal people would consider this an obscene profit margin. Prior to the State of Michigan involvement with Flint's finances, the city council voted to go in with the Karegnondi Water Authority, and pay for the additional infrastructure required to handle Flint's water needs. This would be much less expensive then continuing to buy water from Detroit. Detroit realizing their gravy train was disappearing, demanded Flint immediately sign a 30 year lease with stiff penalties if they stop buying water from Detroit. When Flint refused, Detroit set a date to cut off their water supply. With the new pipeline not ready, Flint had no choice but to start using and treating Flint River for their city. Detroit bureaucrats are no exception, all bureaucrats feign to care about the citizens who pay their salaries, but they only care about themselves. There are many water districts in our country that draw their water from nearby rivers without problems, it is just a matter of hiring experienced chemists and engineers. As dogolaca points out the water was not being treated adequately. I bet the local politicians were hiring incompetent staff with connections. If there was a properly trained scientist working in Flint's water department, who pointed out phosphate and hydroxide needed to be added to the water for safety reasons, I haven't heard about it.

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    1. Bernie, you make a very valid point. I don't think this is an issue of party politics, but rather an issue of incompetence. People are making decisions on issues that they have absolutely no knowledge of. The mayor of Crestwood, IL and his handling of the municipal water quality in his town is another example of this. You have to wonder what these peopler thinking.

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    2. Bernie: That's Snyder's cover-your-ass story. I have my doubts.

      Bitter Scribe

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    3. Bitter Scribe,
      I actually like to give credit to people I despise when they do something right, and I also don't mind criticizing people I admire when they make mistakes. I don't care for partisan bickering, there are people who blame President Obama for the BP oil spill in the gulf, their logic makes them look like fools. NikkiD cites accurate facts, in the 60's Flint River water, and many other waterways in our country, were too polluted for domestic water service. In the 70's President Nixon signed legislation creating the EPA, which over the years has done yeoman work restoring the quality of our air and water. The water from the Flint River is of reasonable quality now, and suitable for use, if passed through a properly designed filtration plant. As an aside, I keep aquarium fish as a hobby. Years ago I had problems with algae blooms, testing the water I discovered phosphate was in our drinking water! What the heck, it was banned as an additive to laundry detergent decades ago, because it screws up the environment. Further research revealed it's added to the water by most water districts, forming an insoluble coating inside pipes, preventing lead from leaching into the water supply. I’m just a regular guy who happens to know this fact, I don’t expect a Mayor or Governor to know these details. Sodium hydroxide is added to neutralize the PH, and as NikkiD notes the total cost of adding these chemicals to the water supply of Flint would have been less then $100 a day. The filter bed needed to be sized to keep the water supply TDS below 500mg/L. This is not rocket science, any licensed Professional Engineer experienced in water treatment knows all this. An engineering firm or consultants should have been retained to design the system or review the plans. If an incompetent company paid bribes to get the contract, those responsible should be prosecuted. Once the water treatment plant was operational, a commissioning protocol should have been followed where the plant was run, dumping the treated water back into the Flint River. Water quality engineers at all levels of government, local, state, and federal, should have been involved in inspecting the facility, and testing the output water. After everyone signs off on the project, then and only then can the water be supplied to the residents of Flint. If bureaucrats at any level of government say it's not their responsibility to do this type of basic work, fire them, they're just worthless parasites wasting our tax dollars. If anyone if found to have permitted or demanded shortcuts be taken, they should be prosecuted for criminal neglect.

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  4. People knew since the 60s that Flint water was bad. Snyder sent in his Emergency Manager whose job was to save money, no matter how. The water treatment would have cost $100 per day, now everyone's pipes and appliances are ruined, not to mention their health. All people, pets, and wildlife that used that water has been poisoned, this will take years to see the full effects. Sure Snyder released a few emails, big friggin deal, No FOIA in MI so we don't know if that's all of them. Imagine no FOIA in IL, yikes. Hopefully this will knock Snyder out, put the next in line probably won't be any better. Yep, he definitely makes Rauner look good and Blago awesome by comparison.

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  5. Republicans basically see their role in government as denying services to people.

    Bitter Scribe

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  6. Insurance companies deny payments to increase profit, which pads the pockets of the CEO above all, then any other investors. Repubicans deny services to increase tax cuts and giveaways to the wealthy and big corporations. It's the same theory. Screw the masses to benefit the elite.

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  7. http://inthesetimes.com/article/18794/flint-water-crisis-neoliberalism-free-market-reforms-rick-snyder And from Paul Krugman There should, however, be much less debate about spending on what Econ 101 calls public goods — things that benefit everyone and can’t be provided by the private sector. Yes, we can differ over exactly how big a military we need or how dense and well-maintained the road network should be, but you wouldn’t expect controversy about spending enough to provide key public goods like basic education or safe drinking water.

    Yet a funny thing has happened as hard-line conservatives have taken over many U.S. state governments. Or actually, it’s not funny at all. Not surprisingly, they have sought to cut social insurance spending on the poor. In fact, many state governments dislike spending on the poor so much that they are rejecting a Medicaid expansion that wouldn’t cost them anything, because it’s federally financed. But what we also see is extreme penny pinching on public goods.
    But you can’t understand what happened in Flint, and what will happen in many other places if current trends continue, without understanding the ideology that made the disaster possible.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/opinion/michigans-great-stink.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fpaul-krugman&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection&_r=0

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  8. A touch of irony: the well known proverb "Penny wise and pound foolish" is attributed to Robert Burton, famous for writing "An Anatomy of Melancholy."

    Tom Evans

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  9. Flint is not the only place that does a bad job of testing water
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2016/01/24/cities-states-using-bad-protocols-to-fake-tests-for-lead-in-water/

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  10. A fairly detailed piece in today's Guardian about how officials instructed people to flush their pipes before testing, a serious violation of good testing protocol, and one that fostered the misimpression that the water was safe. The city has now corrected that but it is still the case elsewhere in Michigan.

    I find it sometimes useful to read British newspapers in order to find out what's going on in America.

    Tom Evans

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  11. . If the was talking about a specific particle it would have more meaning.http://plumbingjudge.com/

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  12. I am finding that government & corporate jobs are given to connected people, not competent. Connected people are good at schmoozing & CTA's...Good job, Brownie...

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  13. And yet, Repubs keep getting voted in by common people. One can only shake their head.

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  14. Who is this FME person posting? You should block him-doesn't belong...

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